Donate Your Trees To The Elephants

We just noticed the Oakland Zoo is asking for dead tree donations, because zookeepers need to feed the elephants and other animals living there.  Now that we’re cleaning up from the storms, there’s plenty to share.  How can you resist?

The zoo specifically requests browse, or the tree branches that their beasts consume.  According to John Briggs, browse/elephant keeper, the zoo animals prefer five to eight feet long branches – and need a lot of fuel.

  • Here’s an official list of acceptable, delicious trees:  Acacia, Alder, Almond, Apple, Bamboo-Green, Birch, Bird of Paradise, Blackberry, Carob, Cotoneaster, Deciduous fruit trees, Elm (Ulmus), Eugenia, Hibiscus, Oak, Palm Frond-Green, Poplar, Plum, Roses, Maple-Silver, Maple-Sugar, Mulberry, Sweetgum (Liquidambar), Thistle, and Willow (Salix).
  • And here’s an official list of unacceptable, toxic trees:  Conifers, Eucalyptus, Elderberry, California Bay, Horsechestnut, Laurel, Olive, Maple-Red, Myrtle, Pepperwood, Pittosporum, Rhododendron, Walnut, Pear, Juniper.

Our zoo’s been on an endless and insatiable hunt for animal food.  For years, they were harvesting trees at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, but neglected to get required permits when the hospital closed.  In addition, some trees were illegally felled at the nearby King Estates Open Space.

Earlier this month, Zoo Director Joel Parrott offered his mea culpas and apologized for running afoul.   Since that’s water under the bridge, we should focus on helping the special creatures that roam across the Oakland Hills.  Elephants like Osh, Dunda, Lisa and Donna, as well as all the other zoo residents, need some decent meals and snacks!

To donate:  Please reach the Zoo’s John Briggs ( or 510-632-9525, ext. 266)  or Jeff Kinzley ( or 510-632-9525, ext. 225).  They can sometimes pick up trees but request drop-offs at the zoo.

Coffee Drinkers On Haiti Calamity

We’re not going to claim any expert opinions about Haiti relief efforts from Montclair’s coffee drinkers, but there’s a naturally-heightened interest among Hayward Fault residents like us.

The neighborly conversations were pretty lively earlier today.  With videos showing attempted and real rescues, dead bodies, and injured or bereft survivors, the aftermath seems so much more vivid than previous long-distance disasters.

Here’s a recap of the concepts examined by coffee klatschers.  We’re sure that locals have been influenced by whatever media they consumed, but these kinds of questions always came up:

  • CommunicationsCan you believe we see it all now, and probably know more than Haitians on the streets?  Did you see Anderson Cooper at the rescue scene?
  • CasualtiesSo is it really 150,000 dead or more now?  How many more won’t get counted?
  • RecoveryWhat will it truly take for Haitians to recover?  Are there achievable goals?  Is it better for Haitians to move and relocate across the island?
  • GovernmentDoes government or centralized control matter there?  Who is in control there?  How are the Haitians reacting to Americans on the ground?
  • Fund-raisingWhat’s the best place to give now, the Red Cross?  How can we get George Clooney to help us raise money all the time?

The Haiti earthquake calamity is still raw news, yet there’s some battle fatigue.  Although most of the local chatting was about Haiti, the unstated “what happens when our Hayward quake hits” was right below the surface.

Quick Review Of “Armenian” Symphony

Last night we attended a performance by the Armenian Symphony, better known as the Oakland East Bay Symphony.  Their 2.5 hour concert was inspiring because the arc of the programming, as major symphonic works took center stage.

The program started with a traditional Mozart warm-up, which sounded beautiful in the Paramount Theater.  Then the epic Khachaturian took us on a journey, filled with many different themes including a little folk music – and it was clearly the high point of the evening.

After intermission, a modern-sounding Mirzoyan was performed with plenty of tension and sadness.  Then four shorter works followed, including “symphonic panels” appropriately titled Armenia and two full-bore choral and orchestral songs.  We noticed a lot of people applauding those final vocals!

Virtuoso Appearance: The guest violinist, Mikhail Simonyan, has Armenian roots and lives in NYC these days.  Simonyan is only in his twenties, yet seemed at ease while performing Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D Major.  Right off the bat, you could hear his joy.  If I had one criticism, then it was when the folk-inspired section arrived with a bunch of lackluster lower notes.  Yet the entire performance was amazingly energized – here, here!

Mirzoyan Piece: This four-movement symphony was a conversation between strings and kettledrums.  Composer Edvard Mirzoyan’s an 88-year-old who hasn’t created many symphonies, and this work should be better known.  There were some themes and sections that captivated us, especially all the repetitive notes among the strings.  While written back in 1962, the music sounded modern and offered an intense, aural landscape.

Overall Review: We’ll give the concert a B+ tonight.  We have to say this was extra-ambitious!  You could feel the excitement in the Paramount, as our hometown orchestra performed these sophisticated and cool masterworks.  They modulated really well and didn’t overplay, and I give props to Michael Morgan’s podium leadership.  The Khachaturian symphony drew the biggest ovations last night, but we think it’s darn difficult to perform.  The last vocal pieces also were lovely, but we wanted more of them.

We have to share one thumbs-down from the evening, though.  We didn’t understand the penchant for applauding at the end of movements.  Clearly the orchestra ignored the mid-symphony applause and stayed focused on their performances.  Could local concert-goers please get it together?

Closing The Budget Gaps, Maturely

Lately, the members of Make Oakland Better Now! have been putting their water glasses against the walls of Oakland homes and public places.  They are eager to learn what everyone thinks about closing this year’s budget gaps, currently pegged at $9 million.

MOBN doesn’t have any political axes to grind, but does want to communicate collective thoughts to the Oakland City Council before they make final budget cuts on February 16th.  MOBN leader Bruce Nye let us know that all Oaklanders may cast their ballots, through Friday at 5pm:  vote here.

What’s in this budget priorities ballot?  You’ll be able to support or oppose specific public safety, personnel and other cuts as well as revenue-generating (tax) measures.   Then you’ll be able to offer your own suggestions, too.

We encourage you to cast your ballot, and rest assured your opinions will be presented clearly to all the City Council members.  Although Oakland’s dealing with Hobson’s Choices, it’s better to consider the possibilities than remain part of the silent majority.

The Rains And Floods Report

Today’s official rains and floods report is…no disasters yet.

However we traveled due east today, and discovered the Caldecott Tunnel traffic was backed up.  One of the three bores closed by midday, due to flooding problems.  Caltrans workers are still fixing things, and expect to re-open the third bore by tomorrow’s commute.

Back in Oakland, the Public Works department experienced a tsunami of calls today.  They decided to issue a release, which says we need to chill out a little bit.

A heavier than usual call volume has been received by the Public Works Call Center, and while no major issues have been encountered so far, some neighborhoods have experienced flooding and  tree damage which crews are responding to.  There have been no reports of mudslides or trees blocking streets, however Public Works is keeping a close eye on the continuing storm movements and the accompanying winds.

Remember the biggest storm round is forecast for tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed.  If you do experience storm-related damage, then make sure to call Oakland’s Public Works Call Center at (510) 615-5566.